Cisco Extends Virtualization Reach

Cisco announces new, upgraded products as part of its Data Center 3.0 push.

Cisco Systems wants to take the mystery out of virtualization.

With virtualization spreading quickly from its roots as a server consolidation play into almost every aspect of IT-from storage to applications to desktops-Cisco is looking to rapidly grow its networking virtualization offerings.

At its Cisco Live user conference June 24 in Orlando, Fla., company officials are laying out the latest steps in their Cisco Data Center 3.0 initiative, which they unveiled during the same conference last year.

The company is rolling out a host of software and services designed to expand what data center administrators can do with virtualization. CEO John Chambers is expected to touch upon these announcements in his keynote address at the show June 24.

"What we're trying to do is demystify virtualization," said George Kurian, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Application Delivery Business Unit. "From a network standpoint, people have been doing virtualization for years."

Kurian pointed to such technologies as WANs (wide area networks) and VPNs (virtual private networks) as examples.

The announcements coming out of Cisco include the release of the company's WAAS (Wide Area Application Services) software version 4.1, which offers virtualized application hosting services, application acceleration and video deliver for branch offices, and Cisco's VFrame Data Center release 1.2 for infrastructure provisioning with Cisco's ACE (Application Control Engine) and VMware's ESX Server software. The upgraded WAAS software represents the first time a vendor has been able to extend full network virtualization capabilities to the branch offices, he said.

"This helps you radically simplify the branch office technology," Kurian said.

In addition, Cisco is releasing version 3.1 of ACE for the ACE 4710 application switch, which offers up to 4 gigabits-per-second of throughput. The company also is announcing the Cisco Data Center 3.0 professional programs and services for support customers and partners with data center deployments. Included in the services offerings is Cisco's new Data Center Efficiency Program, part of the company's Data Center Assurance Program 4.0.

The Efficiency Assurance Program is a Web-based tool that enables users to analyze power use in the data center and identify power and cooling technologies most useful in their facilities.

Kurian said Cisco is about halfway through its multi-step Data Center 3.0 initiative, of which the eventual goal is to have all data center resources automated and virtualized via a Cisco unified fabric.

The first step was to offer technology that enables IT administrators to network, consolidate and standardize all their data center assets, he said. The next phase, represented by much of the new announcements, involves virtualizing everything in the data center.

"The network is the key to a virtualized data center," Kurian said.

Cisco next will begin offering products and services designed to bring much of that virtualization capability-from policy management to high availability-from the network into the machines themselves, he said.

"Over the next 12 months, we will virtualize all of our networking portfolio," Kurian said.

WAAS 4.1, VFrame 1.2 and the ACE Appliance will be available in the third quarter.